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CBD for Lupus: Look here for the best advice [2023 Update]


Medical Marijuana (Cannabis, Cannabinoids, THC, CBD for Lupus)?

Should patients use CBD for lupus? With the increasing popularity and availability of cannabis and CBD, many lupus patients ask, “How about CBD for lupus?” This online chapter of “The Lupus Encyclopedia” covers the latest information regarding the research, use, dosing, effectiveness, and potential side effects of medical marijuana, medical cannabis, and CBD for lupus. This information will also be helpful for the healthcare provider considering whether their patients should take these products or not. Read on to learn more.

Marijuana (cannabis) and its active components (THC and CBD) have become more popular for medical treatments. As of this writing (February 2023), 23 states (including the District of Columbia) have legalized its use recreationally. Another 14 states have legalized its use for medical purposes. Many of my (Donald Thomas, MD) patients ask about using it, so I think it is important to review some important information.

My goal is to present the facts based on scientific evidence without bias.

NOTE: Make sure to read and follow my Lupus Secrets and my advice on Living Successfully with Lupus to Live a Longer and Better Life with Lupus: These are practical and valuable tips.


Table of Contents

What are cannabinoids?

Research results using cannabinoids 

Cannabinoid research in lupus and other autoimmune diseases

Proper prescribing of cannabinoids by doctors

Available prescription cannabinoid drugs (FDA-approved)

     Medical marijuana, CBD, and THC from dispensaries

Cannabinoid drug benefits

How cannabinoids are taken

CBD and THC dosing

Side effects

Weighing the risks vs the benefits

What should be monitored while taking cannabinoids

Reasons you should not take cannabinoids

Interactions with other drugs

Use in pregnancy and while breastfeeding

Use in older people (geriatrics)

Use around the time of surgery

Costs of cannabinoid products

Industrial hemp and a bottle of CBD oil
It is legal to grow “industrial hemp” that contains CBD but less than .3% THC

CBD for Lupus?

Should people use CBD for lupus? Since CBD does not cause people to be high, US federal law allows CBD-containing hemp (“industrial hemp”) to be grown as long as it contains no more than 0.3% THC when dried. Industrial hemp is used to produce CBD products that can be purchased in all 50 states.

Although not much research has been done regarding CBD for lupus, the rest of this online chapter discusses the science behind what we know.

What are cannabinoids?

Cannabinoids are the active compounds of the cannabis plant. There are over 140 different cannabis-derived cannabinoids known, and each acts differently in the body. The 2 most studied and well-known are cannabidiol (CBD) and tetrahydrocannabinol (THC). THC is the cannabinoid responsible for the “high,” intoxicating effects of recreational users. CBD does not make people “high.”

You can buy CBD, but it is illegal. How can that be?

CBD has an interesting legality and availability issue. CBD products (with or without CBDA) are available since industrial hemp is legal to grow. However, the FDA does not permit them to be sold. CBD is considered an investigational drug. The FDA gives out warning letters to companies selling CBD products. However, to our knowledge, citizens are not arrested or prosecuted for purchasing them.

In January 2023, the FDA decided to work with the US Congress to work on a path to possibly allow legalizing the sale of CBD

Many CBD products are poor quality; ensure you get the best brands

The FDA does not regulate CBD quality. A 2022 study showed that around half of CBD products did not contain the amount of CBD stated on the label. Problems with dangerous amounts of lead, mercury, and other contaminants have also been seen in unregulated products. Consider checking lab reports that measure CBD purity, such as

Responsible producers have improved their quality by having batches of products regularly tested for quality. If you decide to use CBD, stick to products from sellers who can produce a “Certificate of Analysis.”

Online examples of high-quality companies include “NuLeaf,” “Joy Organics,” “Bluebird Botanicals,” and “Charlotte’s Web.” These products typically have a QR code on the package that you can scan with a smartphone to check the 3rd party testing analysis results for the batch used to make your product. The United States Department of Agriculture (USDA) also tests and certifies high-quality products. Using a brand that is USDA-certified ensures the highest quality.

Although we do now know if people should use CBD for lupus: If you do so, use products that list the amount of CBD per serving. If the label states only “cannabinoids,” it may not contain much CBD.

Cannabidiolic acid (CBDA)

Some CBD products contain another less-studied cannabinoid called cannabidiolic acid (CBDA). CBDA occurs in industrial hemp and cannabis. Though human studies are lacking, animal studies suggest it may help reduce pain and nausea.

One study also showed that it reduced COX-2 (cyclooxygenase-2) activity in mice and may have anti-inflammatory properties. COX-2 is one of the enzymes that nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDs), such as ibuprofen, naproxen, and celecoxib, inhibit. Could this be more helpful in inflammatory diseases such as lupus? We do not know, and more studies are needed to see if we should use CBD for Lupus.

Prescription medical marijuana and CBD and lupus
CBD and lupus: We need much more research

What the research shows: using medical cannabis for pain

In 2018, a Canadian Evidence Review Group evaluated all the randomized, controlled trials (RCTs) studying the medical uses of cannabis. Their final conclusion was that the evidence for use in chronic pain, including nerve pain, was low. However, it may be helpful for chemotherapy-induced nausea and vomiting. Their final recommendation was to avoid medical marijuana products for acute pain, headaches, and rheumatologic conditions (such as lupus). If all other proven therapies had failed, they could be considered for nerve pain and to help decrease pain and suffering in dying people.

A 2017 National Academies of Sciences, Engineering, and Medicine review of 35 RCTs concluded there was enough evidence to use cannabinoids for chronic pain.  Another 2017 study from Portland, Oregon, US, found a small amount of evidence that cannabinoids may help nerve pain but not enough proof for other pain types.

All agree that more high-quality research is needed. The problem with research so far is that cannabis is a Schedule I drug (illegal). Therefore, high-quality studies are lacking. We will not thoroughly understand the proper use of medical cannabis unless the government allows researchers to do so. Though studies so far do not greatly support cannabinoids for treating pain, it does not mean they are ineffective.

What is the current expert recommendation for using medical marijuana for pain?

The potential for side effects of using medical marijuana (see below) is much greater than its proven benefits.

Therefore, most experts do not recommend its use for pain until more rigorous studies are done. However, we realize that many of our patients will use medical cannabis, often due to dissatisfaction with the results of prescription therapies. Therefore, we want them to know the facts to make well-informed decisions, hopefully in conjunction with a physician experienced in medical cannabis.

There are not enough high-grade clinical trials to allow doctors to feel confident prescribing CBD for lupus (neither medical cannabis nor medical marijuana for lupus).

Lenabasum (ajulemic acid, JBT-10; formerly called anabasum and Resunab) is an experimental cannabinoid drug that binds to CB2. In 2017, it was shown to reduce the inflammatory cytokines TNF-alpha and interferons. These are chemical messages sent from one immune system cell to another, telling it to become more active and causing inflammation. A phase 2 clinical trial showed that lenabasum reduced dermatomyositis (a systemic autoimmune disease that attacks skin and muscles) and skin inflammation (redness and itching) within 2 months. Potential side effects included dry mouth, dizziness, and fatigue. Lenabasum is in clinical trials for systemic lupus erythematosus, cystic fibrosis, scleroderma, and dermatomyositis.

Suppose cannabinoids (such as lenabasum) are shown to significantly reduce inflammation and damage. In that case, they could potentially play a role in treating autoimmune diseases like lupus. However, they would also need to be proven to be safe as well.


Proper use of medical cannabis or medical marijuana by doctors

If you decide to use medical cannabis, do not rely on the salesperson’s advice in a marijuana dispensary (called a “budtender”). Instead, seek the advice of a physician trained in medical cannabis. The signs of a proper evaluation should include the doctor doing a thorough history and physical examination with a review of your medical history, followed by a discussion of the potential risks and benefits of cannabis. The physician should discuss the different types available, the THC and CBD amounts, what dose to begin with, and how to adjust the dose.

A responsible physician would require “informed consent,” often in the form of a “Pain Contract” that lists the potential side effects. Close follow-up should first be performed every few weeks. A drug toxicology screen (for cocaine, heroin, etc.) should be done at these visits. If you see someone with a waiting room full of “patients” and your visit is a hurried affair and a quickly written prescription, this is the sort of doctor you want to avoid.

Prescription cannabinoid drugs:

There are 3 FDA-approved cannabinoids (as of February 2023)—dronabinol, nabilone, and cannabidiol. Nabiximols is available in many other countries:

Dronabinol (MarinolSyndros) is approved to stimulate appetite in wasting conditions, such as HIV and cancer, and to prevent nausea and vomiting from chemotherapy.
Nabilone (Cesamet) is approved to treat nausea and vomiting from chemotherapy in Canada and some other countries but not in the US.
Cannabidiol (CBDEpidiolex) is approved to treat seizures from Dravet syndrome, Lennox-Gastaut syndrome, and tuberous sclerosis. Note that this is a pure prescription-strength form of CBD; this is not intended to be a type of CBD for lupus; more studies are needed. It does not have euphoria, “getting high,” or intoxicating effects (like marijuana) due to not containing THC.
Nabiximols is approved to treat muscle spasms from multiple sclerosis (MS) in many countries (including Canada and the United Kingdom) but not in the US. It is an aerosol spray on the insides of the cheeks. It contains equal parts THC and CBD.

A cannabis dispensary

Medical Marijuana for Lupus from regulated Dispensaries:

These are found in the states that legalized their use. Products come in many forms, as discussed below, with varying amounts of THC and CBD. If you decide to use medical cannabis, make sure you get it from a reputable dispensary, not homemade, so you know what you are actually getting.

Potential dangers of homemade products include unknown THC and CBD quantities, mold, pesticides, and contamination with other drugs. Also, do not smoke or vape, as discussed below.

OTC CBD: Many over-the-counter preparations of CBD are available. See the discussion above. However, we do not know if people should use these forms of CBD for lupus.

Synthetic marijuana

Synthetic marijuana: These are laboratory-produced cannabinoids sold under names such as “K2,” “spice,” and “crazy monkey.” These have similar effects on the body as naturally produced cannabinoids but are unregulated and not studied. Thousands of cases of intoxication side effects from these are reported to the US regional poison control centers yearly. They can cause psychosis, high body temperatures, muscle and kidney damage (rhabdomyolysis), seizures, stroke, and life-threatening blood clots. Avoid synthetic marijuana.

White woman with lupus wrist pain
Research studies suggest possible improvements in pain from THC and CBD

Cannabinoid drug benefits — CBD for lupus:

When used for pain, they may help to “take the edge off.” They will rarely get rid of the pain. Many studies assessing cannabinoids showed their ability to decrease pain by 30%. Studies showing the best pain relief uses THC-containing products. CBD-only products do not appear to have as much benefit. A real-life experience from Dr. Peter Grinspoon, a Harvard (Boston, Massachusetts) physician who specializes in medical cannabis, stated in a 2019 interview:

Among my patients to whom I have suggested CBD for chronic pain, a few have noticed great benefit, a few have noticed some benefit, and a lot have noticed no benefit. I have had a few patients use CBD for lupus pain but with questionable results. For those who have said they noticed benefit it is unclear whether that benefit was just the placebo effect.”
Peter Grinspoon, MD, Harvard

He also stated that for severe arthritis pain, pure CBD probably has little effect. However, medical cannabis containing THC could possibly help.

How to see if CBD helps your pain from lupus

A good habit to get into is to rate the severity of your pain on a scale of 1 to 10 before use (1 is minimal pain, 10 is the worst pain you have ever had in your life, such as slamming your thumb in a car door). Then write down your level every 30-60 minutes after taking the cannabinoid to assess its effectiveness.

How quickly they work depends a lot on the form used. For example, tinctures/oils/concentrates placed under the tongue can work within 30 minutes, while edibles (discussed below) can take several hours. Topical CBD oil, if it helps, can take 6 to 8 hours. A Cleveland Clinic review article found that THC preparations probably work better than pure CBD products.

White woman lupus patient with insomnia

CBD for sleep problems

Cannabinoids may also help with insomnia, lessen anxiety, and reduce nausea. A 2019 Brazilian study demonstrated that taking CBD two hours before public speaking reduced anxiety during the speech.

For insomnia, CBD tincture under the tongue can take half an hour to work, while an edible can take an hour or longer. It is essential to also follow “sleep hygiene” recommendations (chapter 6). CBD does not appear to adversely affect sleep quality (but THC does).  Dronabinol is a synthetic prescription THC. It is used to treat nausea from chemotherapy and appetite loss from AIDS. It causes euphoria and “high” responses after 2 hours, similar to what is felt 30 minutes after smoking marijuana.

Reduced pain, nausea, and increased appetite begin within 30 to 60 minutes after ingestion and peak at 2 to 4 hours. An important point to note is that if you use a THC product, pain relief does not correlate with feeling “high” or not. In other words, if you notice a decrease in your pain but do not feel “high,” don’t go up on the dose thinking that your pain will be even less when you feel “high.”

CBD and THC oils, capsules, and vaporized
THC and CBD come in many different forms

How cannabinoids are taken:

Cannabinoid receptors are attachments on the surfaces of many cells to which cannabinoids can attach. There are 2 types: cannabinoid 1 (CB1) and 2 (CB2) receptors. CBD, CBDA, THC, and other cannabinoids bind to these receptors, causing chemical changes within the cells to react in particular ways. When cannabinoids bind to brain and pain nerve cannabinoid receptors, they can produce desired medical effects such as less nausea, reduced pain, less seizure activity, and fewer muscle spasms. THC (but not CBD) binding to brain cells can produce the “intoxication” and euphoria that some people seek when using it recreationally. However, as discussed below, binding to receptors on some cells can result in side effects.

Immune system cells have attachments for cannabinoids on their cell surfaces

Because of this, cannabinoids cause changes in immune system activity.

CB2 receptors are on most immune system cells, especially the B-cells (types of white blood cells). When cannabinoids bind to CB2, they can lead to less inflammation. For example, when CB2 is activated on young (premature) B-cells of the bone marrow, they stay there instead of going into the blood to cause inflammation. CB2 activation on T-cells also reduces inflammation.

Do not take cannabinoids if:

Reasons not to take cannabinoids (contraindications or precautions):

  • If you have had bad allergic reactions to cannabinoids.
  • If you have had a “cannabis use disorder” history.
  • Consider not using if you have a history of alcohol or drug abuse.
  • If you have a job requiring urine toxicity screenings or need a professional security clearance that does not allow THC use. While OTC CBD products contain less than 0.3% THC, they can potentially cause a positive THC drug screen. The US military does not allow the use of any hemp or cannabis product.
  • If you need an insurance physical examination. Insurance physicals requiring drug toxicology screens may also be negatively affected.
  • If you have liver cirrhosis or use smaller doses than usual.

Beware of dangerous interactions with other medications

There are many potential drug interactions. Have your doctor check before you begin taking a cannabinoid. For example, antifungal drugs used to treat thrush and other yeast infections in lupus patients can significantly increase the blood levels of cannabinoids. Cannabinoids may increase the drug levels of cyclosporin, tacrolimus, and voclosporin (Lupkynis), which are used to treat lupus nephritis.

Other drugs commonly taken by SLE patients that can have significant interactions include

  • cholesterol-lowering medicines (statins)
  • sildenafil (used for Raynaud’s and pulmonary hypertension)
  • blood pressure medicines (nifedipine, metoprolol, propranolol, valsartan, diltiazem, and verapamil)
  • proton pump inhibitors for acid reflux (like pantoprazole and omeprazole)
  • NSAIDs (naproxen and celecoxib)
  • many antidepressants
  • Warfarin (Coumadin): Cannabinoids can dangerously increase warfarin blood levels (measured as the PT-INR). Warfarin is commonly used in patients who have antiphospholipid syndrome.

Liquid dronabinol (Syndros) contains alcohol and should not be taken with disulfiram (Antabuse) or metronidazole. Otherwise, stomach cramps, nausea, headache, and flushing can occur.

Products containing THC (including dronabinol) have the potential for substance abuse. Avoid these products if you have a history of alcohol or drug abuse.


How cannabinoids are taken:

Cannabinoids can be used in many different forms—smoked, vaped, ingested (such as “edibles,” capsules, concentrates, and tincture drops), topicals (ointments, creams), and as an aerosol spray on the insides of the cheek.

Marijuana edibles (“medibles”) come in many forms, including popcorn, baked goods, candies, butter and oils, mints, and beverages. Be extra careful to keep these secure and hidden from children. Caution is needed if you consume cannabis edibles. Their absorption and effects are slow and gradual in onset. It may be several hours before feeling anything. This can lead inexperienced users to eat an additional serving (called “stacking”), thinking it must not be working. This can easily cause an overdose with nausea, nonstop vomiting, psychotic thoughts, and heart palpitations.

CBD gummy bears
Keep cannabinoid edibles, especially candies, locked away from children

CBD concentrate or tincture oil

CBD concentrates are usually placed under the tongue (sublingual)

Tincture (liquid) drops and concentrates are placed under the tongue (sublingual). These are absorbed and have rapid effects. These are some of the easiest forms to adjust the dose for reliable effects.

Topicals (ointments, oils, salves) are advertised to rub over painful areas.

White woman smoking medical marijuanaPlease do not smoke if you have lupus

Avoid smoking medical marijuana products

Smoking (and vaping) cannabis. There are many proven dangers of smoking tobacco for lupus patients. It can lead to the onset of lupus, trigger lupus flares, decrease the effectiveness of its most important treatment (antimalarials like hydroxychloroquine), make skin lupus harder to treat, cause heart disease attacks and strokes, and lead to lung cancer.

Cannabis smoke contains many of the same dangerous chemicals and carcinogens (cancer-causing substances) as tobacco smoke. Cannabis smoking increases the risk of heart attacks and strokes. Since these are the most common causes of premature death in people with SLE, this is another reason for avoidance.

Medical studies show that smoking cannabis can lead to chronic bronchitis, a disease due to permanent lung damage. This condition increases the risk of infection, and infections are among the leading causes of death in people with SLE. Smoking cannabis worsens dry mouth, can cause thrush, and increases periodontal disease. All of these are already problems in SLE that could be further exacerbated by smoking cannabis.

Since smoking cannabis has not been studied in SLE patients, and its potential risks are so high, please do not smoke.

Carefully weighing medical marijuana on scales

Dosing CBD for Lupus: 

In general, for all forms of medical cannabis and CBD for lupus patients should be started at a low dose. Then, go up slowly over time until the desired effect is achieved. If any side effects occur, go back down on the amount.

CBD Dosing

Prescription-strength CBD (Epidiolex) is dosed at 2.5 mg to 10 mg per kg of body weight twice daily to prevent seizures. For a 150-pound person, this comes out to 170 mg twice daily up to a maximum of 680 mg twice daily. 

OTC CBD dosing by disorder treated

General: Proper dosing has not been adequately studied. One recommended dosing is 1 mg per 10 mg of body weight. For a 200-pound person, this would be 20 to 110 mg.

Others recommend that new users begin with 5 mg at a time and slowly increase the dose. The following CBD doses were used in research studies that suggested benefits at these doses. However, starting at a low dose, such as 5 mg to 25 mg at a time, is safer. Then patients can slowly increase the dose.

Dosing has not been studied in CBD and lupus.

Anxiety and public speaking: 150 mg to 600 mg capsules or edibles once or twice daily. For public speaking, 150 mg to 600 mg 2 hours before speaking

Insomnia: 160 mg to 500 mg tincture oil under the tongue 30 minutes before bed or 160 mg to 500 mg capsules or edibles 1 to 2 hours before bed

Chronic non-cancer pain and nerve pain: CBD-only products may not be very effective. THC products containing CBD may be more helpful. Ask a physician experienced in medical cannabis for proper dosing.

Acute pain: There is no evidence of effectiveness. No dosing guidelines are available.

THC Dosing

Prescription-strength THC (dronabinol) is dosed at 2.1 mg once daily and up to 10 mg twice daily for nausea and to increase appetite.

OTC THC dosing: 10 mg, or less, at a time is a commonly recommended dose. Use products that are low in THC and higher in CBD for lupus if you decide to do so.

Medical marijuana in a purple pill bottle and on a white plate
Fatty foods increase cannabinoid absorption

Alcohol/food/herbal interactions with medical cannabis for lupus:

Avoid alcohol since cannabinoids can increase the intoxication effects of alcohol.
Fatty meals increase absorption. If you use a THC product and develop side effects, try taking it on an empty stomach instead.

What to monitor on cannabinoids, cannabis, and CBD for lupus:

A responsible prescriber will ask you to read and sign a pain contract that discusses how pain medicines work, potential side effects, close follow-ups, and regular drug screens (such as for cocaine and heroin). Close follow-up with your physician should occur to monitor its effectiveness and tolerability. If you have thoughts of suicide, depression, anxiety, moodiness, drowsiness, or other side effects, report these to your physician ASAP.

Liver function tests, weight, blood counts, and kidney function should be monitored regularly.

While taking cannabinoids:

  • Do not drive, climb, or operate machinery 24 hours after using THC.
  • Do not take other medicines that affect the brain and nerves without consulting your doctor. This includes antidepressants, anti-anxiety drugs, sleeping medication, and other pain relievers.
  • If you use a cannabis product regularly, be cautious of stopping use abruptly. Taper off slowly to prevent withdrawal problems such as seizures.
  • Store in a secure place (especially tempting edibles) away from children and pets to prevent accidental use and overdose.

Potential side effects of medical marijuana and CBD for lupus:

THC causes intoxication and a “high” sensation, but CBD does not. THC products are potentially addictive and have abuse potential. If you used to smoke cannabis many years ago, consider that THC strength has increased from only 3% in the 1990s to around 20% today.

Pure CBD products do not. If you decide to use cannabinoids, choose a product that is low in THC and higher in CBD.

A Jack O Lantern vomiting
THC can cause hyperemesis syndrome (it is not fun!)

Uncontrollable vomiting

One potential side effect of cannabinoids (primarily higher THC products) is “hyperemesis syndrome.” Emesis is the medical term for “vomit,” and “hyper-“ comes from the Greek for “a lot of.” Fortunately, this is rare, but when it occurs, it is life-altering, with uncontrollable nausea, vomiting, and abdominal pain that can last hours to months. Hot baths and showers can help decrease the severity. The usual drugs to treat nausea are often of little benefit. Interestingly, topical capsaicin use may help.

THC can cause unpleasant withdrawal symptoms

THC-containing products (including dronabinol) can cause unpleasant withdrawal symptoms if taken regularly and stopped abruptly. It is best to slowly wean off to prevent withdrawal if taken regularly.
People who take CBD products (including Epidiolex) for seizures should also taper off gradually to prevent withdrawal seizures.


Using THC products and marijuana at an early age can increase the risk for schizophrenia. Weekly cannabis use at least doubles the risk for testicular cancer.

Cannabis use disorder

THC-containing products can cause “cannabis use disorder” in 10% of users. With daily users, it occurs in around 1 out of 3 users. Those affected become used to the effects of cannabis (tolerance), go through withdrawal symptoms if they try stopping it abruptly, and continue to use it even if it is causing them harm. Cannabis use disorder is associated with poor school functioning, a higher likelihood of requiring socioeconomic assistance (social welfare programs), low income, unemployment, criminal behavior, and lower life satisfaction.

Colorful brain picture
Multiple studies demonstrate brain damage with chronic marijuana use

Brain Damage

Long-term cannabis users can develop permanent brain abnormalities, including decreased hippocampus size, lower IQ, and reduced brain nerve activity. A 2014 study of 158 cannabis users showed significantly worse memory, attention, and performance scores than nonusers. Unsurprisingly, these were worse in daily users than sporadic users. However, even those who had previously stopped using cannabis had significantly lower brain function than nonusers, suggesting permanent adverse brain effects.

Research suggests that CBD may decrease some of the unwanted side effects of THC by preventing THC from attaching to CBD1 and CBD2 receptors on specific body cells. However, the research is preliminary, and more studies are needed.

Since many lupus patients have memory problems and “lupus fog,” it is vital for them to question whether they should use CBD for lupus or not.

Potential side effects of pure CBD (Epidiolex)

from the FDA-approved package insert

Stomach upset, nausea, diarrhea, weight change, loss of appetite
Elevated liver enzymes
Drowsiness, fatigue, insomnia, difficulty thinking, moodiness, aggression/anger, suicidal thoughts
Infection and fevers
Rash, hives, angioedema

Potential side effects of pure THC (dronabinol)

from the FDA-approved package insert

Euphoria, “high” 
Abdominal pain, nausea, vomiting, weight changes, diarrhea
Facial flushing, heart palpitations, fast heart rate
Muscle weakness or pain
Increased sweating
Elevated liver enzymes
Thinking abnormalities, altered judgment, sexual indiscretion activity, drowsiness, memory loss, anxiety/depression, incoordination, confusion, “flu-like symptoms,” headaches, nightmares, speaking problems, ringing in the ears, psychiatric symptoms (hallucinations, paranoia)
Low blood pressure, lightheadedness, passing out (syncope)
Rash, hives, angioedema, mouth sores
Hyperemesis syndrome (uncontrollable vomiting)

The scales of justice to weigh the risks vs the benefits of lupus drugs
It is important to weigh proven risks versus benefits for any medical treatment, such as CBD for lupus

Weighing the risks vs potential benefits:

What if we, your doctors, prescribed a pain medicine that causes side effects in 1 of 6 people who take it? However, only 1 out of every 19 people get adequate pain relief. Our patients would look at us like we were crazy and refuse to take it. Guess what? These are the actual numbers when you look at the averages from the best research studies assessing the use of cannabinoids to treat chronic noncancer pain (such as arthritis and fibromyalgia pain). Look at the side effects listed above.

You are unlikely to develop serious side effects if you take an over-the-counter CBD product in small doses.

However, at higher doses, you can potentially have the problems listed. These effects occur with prescription-strength CBD using 2.5 to 10 mg twice daily. While over-the-counter CBD is popular, studies do not show excellent pain-relieving results from these products.

The research studies that suggest pain relief from cannabinoids primarily use THC-containing products.

Side effects in products with CBD and THC

Other medical marijuana products available in states where it is legal have a combination of CBD and THC. Medical marijuana and edibles purchased from medical and recreational dispensaries contain an average of around 20% THC and 2% CBD. However, amounts vary widely, ranging from 0 to 45% THC and 0 to 40% CBD. The THC in most products was 2 to 3 times higher than needed for pain relief. These more elevated amounts of THC place the person at higher risk for the dangerous psychotic side effects of cannabinoids but without additional pain-relieving effects.

Silhouette of a pregnant, black lupus patient
Do not use medical marijuana or CBD for lupus while pregnant

Pregnancy and breastfeeding while taking cannabinoids:

Do not use it while breastfeeding or pregnant. Fetal and infant exposure to THC increases the risk of permanent brain damage leading to autism, hyperactivity, lower IQ, memory problems, and psychiatric illness. CBD for lupus and lupus pregnancy risks has not been formally studied.

Cannabis smoking decreases sperm counts by around 30% and should be avoided in men trying to have a baby.

Geriatric use of cannabinoids:

Older individuals have a higher chance of side effects, and lower doses are usually needed. The side effects can increase the risk of falls, which can be very dangerous (bleeding in the brain and hip fractures, for example). Do not use it without discussing it with your physician. If you have osteoporosis, you should consider not taking a cannabinoid.

Cannabinoids and surgery:

Cannabinoids should be avoided before surgery to prevent dangerous interactions with anesthetic medications.

Costs of cannabinoids:

Prescription cannabinoids are not covered by insurance other than for the FDA-approved indications of chemotherapy-induced nausea, appetite stimulant, rare forms of seizures, and muscle spasms from MS. The costs, out of pocket, as per, for a typical one-day supply, are as follows:

Epidiolex: $32 to $250 daily for a 150-pound adult
Generic dronabinol: $2.50 to $375a day
OTC CBD products: per, prices range from US 24 cents for 10 mg up to US $2.67 for 10 mg. also tests product quality. The least expensive product was also one of the highest quality brands. This is a case where more expensive does not mean higher quality.

Website to learn more about cannabis: and https:///

What are your thoughts, comments, or experience with medical marijuana for lupus?


Don Thomas, MD, author of “The Lupus Encyclopedia” and “The Lupus Secrets

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  1. THC gummies are $20 for 20-2mg-10MG. This last me 2-3 months. So the cost is actually extremely low. Not sure how $20 a day was calculated. In states where Cannabis is not legal, delta 8 and delta 9 is, which is low dose THC

    I only use as needed for days of extreme pain or insomnia. It is a game charger, pain virtually gone in an hour, and restful sleep.

  2. I went with the THC/CBD tinctures, starting a couple of years ago. Basically, when you get enough into your system around the clock, you can find you have less pain. Start with 5 mg of each, and watch the mg of the product. My 800 mg THC requires less of a dose. Take more if you do not get the effects you need, but be careful about increasing beyond 20mg and wait an hour or so to feel effects before taking more. I take enough to work without feeling the psychological effects, and it usually clears within twelve hours. The combination of THC with CBD is anti-inflammatory. If I have breakthrough pain, or wake suddenly at night, I take half of a 10mg THC/CBD 1:1 gummy. Dosing is difficult without physician input, but they are afraid to lose their licensing. U of Maryland has a masters program that just started to develop knowledgeable medical people, so that will be a good thing. However, many state universities are not supporting these studies, which is too bad. Buy quality brands and not from the local grocery or MLM mail order. Topical CBD often is great, too.

  3. Thank you for the extensive and valuable research!

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